It’s still business as usual for Michaelle Graybeal, the owner of All That JAS in downtown Elon, but it won’t be for much longer. As she celebrates 20 years of business, she’s also getting ready to celebrate her upcoming retirement.
“It went by in a flash to tell you the truth,” Graybeal said.
Since opening, the store has moved locations three times and changed its inventory throughout. All That JAS started in Graybeal’s basement before moving to downtown Burlington. It relocated to the Faucette House on East Trollinger Avenue before finding its latest home at the downtown Elon location, where it’s been for over 10 years.
The idea for the name came from the original location, which sold cheerleading uniforms. The women who worked there encouraged Graybeal to start making sorority apparel.
“We were like, ‘Well, what are we going to name it?’ because my cheerleading company was jump and shout — JAS,” Graybeal said. “So then we were like, ‘Well, OK, it could mean join a sorority, you know, jewelry, accessories, shirts. It could be all that, so we ended up with All That JAS.”
Graybeal said she wanted to retire so she could spend more time with her four grandchildren and her family in High Point. But she didn’t have to look far to find her replacement. The new owner is Caitlin Brooks, a family friend and Graybeal’s former employee. The two reconnected last year through family and friends.
“I just wanted to be back in my hometown,” Brooks said. “I wanted to be a part of the community. I wanted to be involved on that kind of level, and so it's very different from what I was doing before.”
Growing up, Brooks lived around the corner from Graybeal. She went to high school with Graybeal’s son and worked at All That JAS when she would come home for the holidays in college. A former attorney who practiced criminal law, Brooks recently relocated to Elon from Apex, North Carolina. She wanted to pursue a career that was a better fit for her family, and have more time to do activities such as picking her children up from school every day.
One of the first tasks Brooks is taking on is renovating the store. From new paint and shelves to a new register and inventory, Brooks is making the gift and apparel store her own. Graybeal said she was excited that Brooks wanted to change the yellow walls in the store. It’s something Graybeal has wanted to do for years now.
“I still feel like we've got really cool things that we can still offer, but I was looking for somebody that could carry on what we've been doing for 20 years and take it to the next level,” Graybeal said. “I think Caitlin is definitely that person.”
Brooks said some of her favorite products in the store right now are colorful bags with customizable patches, and their selection of earrings. Customers can choose letters, symbols or emojis to make it their own.
“It's just so much more fun and colorful than what I was doing before,” Brooks said. “I think it fits my personality. I'm just excited to be a part of the community.”
Being a small business owner allows Brooks to work in a career that is still fast paced, but not quite as high stress as what she was doing before. Making samples for the display cases is how Brooks likes to show customers what all is possible.
All of the employees are staying on staff at All That JAS during and after the transition of ownership. Brooks said she’s loved getting to know them so far. According to Graybeal, most of the staff has been with her for at least 10 years. There’s no set date for Graybeal’s retirement, and she said she’s always thinking of new tips and things to remind Brooks of.
“There is that every moment of the day, it's 20 years worth of stuff in this brain,” Graybeal said.
Graybeal said an Elon intern worked with the employees this summer to create a manual detailing inventory, accounting, customer service and other departments so all employees would know how to do one another’s jobs.
“I need to continue to do something on a daily basis anyway, so it's great to continue to be here and be able to help,” Graybeal said.
Graybeal said one of the aspects about running a small business she’ll miss most is the ability to jump on trends as quickly as they evolve. She said 90% of their business used to be stitched letter shirts for sororities and fraternities, but now, no one knows what a stitched letter shirt is.
“It's fun to be able to change on a moment's notice, which you can do when you're a small business,” Graybeal said. “You're wearing a million hats and having to learn to do all these different things.”
As the new academic year and a new recruitment season begin, Graybeal encourages students and community members alike to come into the store to support Brooks and see the changes. She said regardless of academic year, Greek affiliation or age, there’s something for everyone.
Graybeal said she and her employees keep up with student employees and community members, and that’s something she’ll continue to do after she’s retired.
“We get to see what they've done in their lives and their children,” Graybeal said. “I mean, 20 years, these kids have kids that are going to high school, some of them, and that's exciting to see where my people have ended up and what kind of jobs they've done and what their lives look like, as well as mine.”